Sunday Morning Coming Down

Time for something by The Gentle Giant of Country, the late, great Don Williams.

I’ve had this song knocking around my head all week, and I’m really not sure why.

This is actually a cover of a wonderful old R&B tune by Brook Benton. Don’s version is very different, and no less wonderful for it:

Don Williams – The Ties That Bind

More soon.

Be Llyrious

One of the first posts I wrote in memory of my recently deceased best buddy Llŷr was one recalling the time in 2015 when we went to Glastonbury together, and sat getting drenched watching Mary J Blige on the Pyramid Stage.

Truth be told, I have at least a hundred memories of Glastonbury and Llŷr. I simply cannot think of the greatest festival in the world without thinking of him, the two are utterly inseperable.

So this weekend has been tough for me, and doubtless for everyone else who knew the boy wonder.

That’s one of the reasons I’m not there this year. See, every year that I went to Glastonbury, it was with Llŷr – and often his sister Hel – at my side, and I wasn’t sure I would be ready to attend again without him, so soon after he passed. Not that I think that will get any easier as the years pass; when I next lug my festival paraphanalia through the gates, collect my wrist-band and Grauniad-sponsored weekend guide, I know I’ll be looking round for him.

The other reason, of course, is that I didn’t get a ticket.

At the reception after his memorial service (note: not a wake), Hel and I were waiting to be served at a fairly packed bar. In front of us was a bunch of Llŷr’s work colleagues, Cardiff girls doing what Cardiff girls do really well: getting some shots in. Suddenly – mostly because they recognised Hel as being Llŷr’s sister, but partly, I think, because we happened to be in their vicinity – a shot of I know-not-what was thrust into each of our hands. We of course dutifully necked them, it would have been rude not to do so.

One of the girls in the group, Hannah, asked what our names were, and after I’d told her mine she stared, open-mouthed.

“Oh my God,” she said, “You’re Jez! He fucking loved you! He was always talking about you!”

Not for the first nor for the last time that day, I forced a smile and held back a tear.

“You’re a lot older than I thought you were,” she continued. “He never told me you were old.”

Holding back the tears suddenly became a lot easier, as my shoulders shuddered in laughter.

Anyway, Hannah had been to Glastonbury with Llŷr on at least one of the occasions when I hadn’t managed to get a ticket; neither of us were going this year, so we made a pledge that we’d do our darndest to go in 2020, and if we managed to get tickets, we would make it Llŷr’s Farewell Tour.

Where am I going with this? Oh yes….

In 2003, Llŷr and I and a whole bunch of friends – there was around ten of us, I think – went to our first Glastonbury. The headliners on the Pyramid Stage that year were R.E.M. on the Friday night, Radiohead on the Saturday, and Moby on the Sunday.

None of us watched Moby (Doves were playing on The Other Stage, so of course that’s where most of us were), the group was split between R.E.M. on the Pyramid or Primal Scream on The Other Stage (you can probably guess where my affiliations lay), but – and if memory serves me correctly, it was the only time this happened over the whole weekend – we all saw Radiohead together.

A couple of weeks later, back at home in at the flat of filth in Cardiff, Llŷr burst into the living room, triumphantly brandishing a CD he had just burnt off.

And on it, scrawled in marker pen, were the words: Radiohead Glasto 03.

“Here you go, dude,” he said as he thrust it into my hands.

And here you go, dudes:

Radiohead – Glasto 03

More soon.

How (Not?) To Do A Cover Version

I’m a little torn about whether this is a good or a bad cover version.

The problem is that both versions are by the same person.

In 1986, Billy Bragg released this as the second single from his “difficult” (but brilliant) third album, Talking with the Taxman about Poetry:

Billy Bragg – Greetings to the New Brunette

But then later – and I must confess, I’ve been trying to establish where this version first appeared, with no success (it probably tells me on the album on which it appears that I own a copy of, but as all my CDs are currently boxed away I can’t be arsed with digging it out) – he re-recorded it with a full band, and whilst he was at it, he re-titled it too:

Billy Bragg – Shirley

See, it’s not a terrible version, and in many ways I think it benefits from the full band treatment.

But here’s two reasons why the original is better:

  1. It has Johnny Marr playing guitar on it, and
  2. It has Kirsty MacColl doing backing vocals on it.

I rest my case.

More soon.

50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #13

I have nothing to say about this record other than this: it’s brilliant.

Oh and this: it’s the sort of record that, when it was released in 1983, it would doubtless have attracted many outraged exclamations of “Is that a boy or a girl?” from parents watching Top of the Pops.

Which makes it even more fabulous, of course:

Marilyn – Calling Your Name

Welcome to the weekend.

More soon.

Apropos of Nothing

On his BBC 6Music breakfast show, Shaun Keaveny used to have a spot called Earworms. He may well still do it since he moved to an afternoon slot, I have no idea since I’m at work then and don’t have chance to listen to it.

The basic idea was this: listeners would get in touch to suggest a record which had inexpicably become lodged into their brains.

It always struck me as being a bit of a falsehood, and that people would use it as an excuse to request a song they liked, wanted to hear, and to claim responsibility for its broadcast.

Maybe I’m just bitter, as he never played any of my suggestions.

I mention this because for the last couple of days, I’ve had this ace bit of power-pop banging around in my hippocampus. I know not why. Maybe I’m psychically connecting with somebody.

Jellyfish – The King is Half-Undressed

More soon.

It Really Fell Apart

I must say that I was slightly torn about posting a Moby tune earlier today; had it not been for Mark Lanegan’s involvement then I probably wouldn’t have.

Why’s that, I don’t hear you wonder?

Well…Moby recently released a memoir called “When It Fell Apart.” I haven’t read it. But I’ve seen enough from it to have formed an opinion.

No, not an opinion.

I’ll explain. In said tome, Moby claims to have been romantically involved with (13 years his junior) movie star Natalie Portman.

Now to me, and I know she has been in many fine films since, Ms Portman will forever be Mathilda, the teenage protegee of hitman Leon in the 1994 film of the same name – and therefore not somebody that I particularly want to think about as being romantically involved with anybody.

And, to a degree, she agrees, for after Moby had released his memoir she went on record as saying: “I was surprised to hear that he characterized the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me.”

On balance, I think I prefer (if prefer is the right word) her account.

But that potential union of Moby and Portman – and, trust me, I do not mean to make light of a predatory musician abusing his status, because that’s how it looks to me – reminded me of this band.

I could never decide whether this was the greatest band name or the worst:

Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head – Me + Yr Daughter

I think perhaps the answer to that is that shortly after the release of that album, the band changed their name to Brite Futures, which is definitely rubbish.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

And so as my Glastonbury family prepare to head off down to Pilton for a few days of bloody lovely debauchery and vodka alchemism without me (I’ll expand on this in the next few days), I thought I’d post something to remind folks of one of the legendary appearances in the Sunday Legends slot:

Dolly Parton – Sweet Summer Lovin’

You kids have fun now.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I didn’t care for his work when he was in The Screaming Trees, and I didn’t even notice that he was in Queens of the Stone Age until he’d left, but now I just love to listen to Mark Lanegan’s growling gravelly voice.

He saves/makes this:

Moby & Mark Lanegan – The Lonely Night

A post related to this briefly appeared yesterday as I managed to set it for Saturday rather than Sunday. Apologies for any confusion.

More soon, hopefully in the order I intended.

Saturday Night Coming Up

Hands up who’s enjoying the Conservative Party electoral contest?

Ah, yes, I appreciate asking such a question is much the same as asking this:

See, putting aside the inevitable conclusion that Boris Johnson is going to be our next Prime Minister – although events over the past couple of days may (I think it unlikely, given the right wing reaction to the Mark Field incident) change things a little – it’s been the X-Factor for people who are interested in politics.

It’s the audition round! And welcome to the stage Esther McVey! She has an interesting back story in that nicest woman on UK TV (if you ignore the stuff about her tax arrangements) Lorraine Kelly hates her.

Desperate to get throught to the judges houses, all of the other candidates appeal to the common, oh-so common, working classes by divulging stories about their previous drug useage, the message being that they’re just ordinary people, sure they’ve done stuff they regret, but they’ve faced up to and beaten their problems.

Dominic Raab: admitted to taking cannabis as a student. To be fair, he probably didn’t realise it had maybe been imported through Dover, since as Minister for Brexit he “did not quite understand” the UK’s reliance on Dover as a trade route.

Rory Stewart: confessed that at a wedding in Afghanistan he had smoked opium (that’s heroin, to the likes of you and me). Which explains why he thought he was holding a phone in those videos he kept posting;

Matt Hancock: didn’t admit it, but sources close to him revealed he had tried cannabis “a few times as a student”;

Popular inadvertant rhyming slang Jeremy Hunt: “thinks” he had a cannabis lassi when he went back-packing through India. (N.B. “Thinks??” And what the effing eff is a lassi?)

Andrea Leadsom: advised that she had smoked cannabis at university. I was a bit disappointed by this, as I was looking forward to hearing about her being in a K-Hole on a family (she’s got children, you know!) day out at Cadbury World. Alas it was not to be.

Michael Gove: admitted to taking cocaine on “numerous occasions” when he was a journalist. If ever there was an anti-drugs advert waiting to be made, it’s that if you take drugs you too could end up just as awful as Gove with an awful wife who writes vile bile in the awful Daily Mail.

And then there’s Boris.

Now, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but Boris hasn’t been entirely consistent in his answers on this front. I know, that’s not like him, right?

In a 2005 edition of Have I Got News For You he said: “I think I was once given cocaine, but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose. In fact, I may have been doing icing sugar.”

Boris seems to have got himself all mixed up with Woody Allen in Annie Hall, which given both of their questionable sexual morals, perhaps shouldn’t be such a surprise:

But then in 2007, inexplicably and totally out of character for him to contradict himself, Johnson admitted to taking cocaine and cannabis at university but that they “achieved no pharmacological, psychotropic or any other effect on me whatsoever”.

Oh Boris, Boris, Boris. There’s only two explanations for that; either you’re too stupid to work out how to smoke or snort, or you spout so much bullshit it’s impossible to tell druggy Johnson from the straight one. I’m not sure which is worse.

But I digress, because I sense some of you may be wondering why I’m banging on about the Conservative Party leadership process in a series where I traditionally tell a clubbing related story.

And the answer is this: I’ve always felt a little conflicted about writing these posts, partly because I do not wish to be seen to be encouraging or endorsing recreational drug use – which is a dangerous and often dumb thing to do – but mostly because I was concerned about any legal ramifications which might arise from my stories.

But now I think, what the hell: if leading Tory MPs, including the next Prime Minister, can admit to taking illegal substances in the past with no consequences, then all I have to do is screw over the NHS and make sure a totally innocent UK citizen remains in a prison in Iran and I’ll be fine.

I’ll work on that.

In the meantime, a tune which will forever remind me of my clubbing mate Dum-Dum. Whilst I was still popping pills like Smarties, he decided he didn’t need them anymore, which is entirely admirable.

But.

On occasion, about an hour after I’d dropped, as we danced next to each other, Dum-Dum would look enviously at me and ask if I was coming up yet. Invariably the answer was a resounding “yes”.

And then about half an hour later, he would crumble and ask if I had any spares.

Time for a tune which at first listen seems to be about how great recreational drugs are, but closer listening reveals it to be the complete opposite:

Green Velvet – La La Land

Can I be Prime Minister now please?

More soon.

Completely and Utterly

Other than a couple of people being rather kind about my shirt, this has been a pretty great week.

Before I go any further, I should stress that I am not sponsored by the app I’m about to big up. Although, I’d be willing to listen to offers, obviously.

I have the Songkick app on my phone. For those of you unfamiliar with it – and I would imagine most of you use it, so I’m probably just talking to myself now – it’s an app which scans your phone for all of your music, and then whenever an artiste that you have songs by announces a gig in your area, it tells you. You can then buy tickets through the app, or it will guide you to reputable websites that are selling them.

On Thursday lunchtime, I got an alert from Songkick which genuinely made me rub my eyes in disbelief. This one:

Whu-what???

As far as I knew, until I got that alert, The Chesterfields had split way back in 1989.

Ok, I imagine many of you are shrugging your shoulders and saying “Who?” right now.

But I knew of at least one person who’d be interested: my old mate Richie.

Richie has popped up quite a lot on these pages recently, indeed it was he who first introduced me to this band back in 1988.

I sent him a DM on Twitter, asking what he was doing on September 20th. When he said he was doing nothing, I broke the news to him and told him I would sort tickets come payday. But Richie, wisely, wouldn’t wait and a few minutes later he sent me a message telling me he’d bought us tickets, and that this was my 50th birthday present.

What a guy.

Moments later still, giddy with excitement, he announced the news to some indifference to the world of Twitter:

He never swears. He must be excited.

And here’s why: back in his bedroom when we were at sixth form together Richie introduced me to the world of jingly jangly indie pop. I’ve mentioned this before: in one afternoon he made me fall in love with The Smiths, The Wedding Present, Billy Bragg, and The Chesterfields.

Of those, it was The Chesterfields who we felt were “ours”. Nobody else seemed to know them, despite me including them on pretty much every mixtape I lovingly compiled for our sixth form common room thereafter – partly because I bloody loved them, but also because their songs were generally super-short and therefore just perfect for squeezing on to the end of one side of a C90.

Their seminal debut album is called Kettle and, if you love jingly-jangly late-80s guitar pop I’d imagine you’re already familiar with it, but if not, then here’s some of my favourite songs from it (I’ve omitted their most well-known (the term is relative) track Ask Johnny Dee as it’s featured a couple of times here before):

The Chesterfields – Nose Out of Joint

The Chesterfields – Two Girls and a Treehouse

The Chesterfields – Shame About the Rain

The Chesterfields – Everything a Boy Could Ever Need

The Chesterfields – Kiss Me Stupid

The Chesterfields – Thumb

The Chesterfields – The Boy Who Sold His Suitcase

The Chesterfields – Completely and Utterly

I’ll be honest, I could easily have posted the whole album – there’s even an Orange Juice cover on there, a gentle nod to their influences – but where’s the fun in laying everything out on a plate for you? I’m such a tease.

A few years later, I was browsing the racks of a record shop in Haverfordwest, west Wales when I stumbled upon a copy of their second album, Crocodile Tears. I say ‘second album’, technically it’s their third, for there was a compilation of singles and B-sides – Westward Ho! – released in between the two, but compilations don’t count as proper albums in my book – they’re a taster, an appetite whetter, an introduction point.

Of course, I snaffled it up; the sound is more polished but there’s still plenty of pop gems to be found there.

The opening track (the first one posted in this next batch) must have really struck a chord with me, bemoaning as it does the trend of the time of using classic records in jeans adverts. It contains the wonderful rhyming couplet “Instead of peace and revolution, we’ve got AIDS and Whitney Houston”. Anyone who has ever read one of my S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs) posts will realise I have not one ounce of originality in me.

The Chesterfields – Lunchtime for the Wild Youth

The Chesterfields – Alison Wait

The Chesterfields – When It All Comes Down

The Chesterfields – Let It Go

The Chesterfields – Twintown

The Chesterfields – Goodbye Goodbye

Such was there development and their knack for writing catchy, witty, pithy pop tunes, they should have gone on to be massive, or have at least one bloody hit, but alas no. The time for clever jangly guitar pop had passed. One more album followed, and then that was it.

Earlier this morning, I returned to the Songkick app to update my status with regards to this gig. You have the option to mark the gig in question to show you are either Interested or Going.

And only then did I notice who the support acts are: Rodney Allen (who was briefly a member of The Chesterfields before jumping ship to join the Blue Aeroplanes) and…it was at this point I had to catch my breath…The Waltones.

Again, a shrug of indifference from most of you, I imagine, but The Waltones have popped up a few times on these pages, and I usually mention that they are responsible for a song which is one of my favourite pop songs ever, but which I’ve never posted (I don’t think).

Until now.

The Waltones – She Looks Right Through Me

Like Richie, I am giddy with excitement.

I’ll try not to turn into one of those annoying people who countdown to an event by announcing how many sleeps it is til it happens, but I can’t promise anything.

More soon.